Cultural Impact: Metroid. The Legend of Zelda may have sold more copies and created a new template that informed this game (by a matter of months), but by applying that template to the 2D platforming landscape, Metroid created a new genre, typically known as the "Metroidvania", appropriately. Perhaps more groundbreaking really though was the simple fact that also you play as a female action hero, which was quite frankly unheard of at the time and is a privilege that's near and dear to my heart. And one who was not simply a carbon copy of a pre-existing male character with a bow added or something, but an original, human(oid) character in her own right. (Although it was a gimmick really. The English-language instruction manual describes Samus using male pronouns, thus deliberately misleading the player.) What won't they think of next? I also just liked the game's attitude, like the stylized way a number of the developers are named in the credits and stuff. Clearly they thought this game was cool.
Metroid also happens to be the game that made a gamer out of me. My dad got an NES in 1986 when I was four years old. It was mostly for his own enjoyment, but he did try to interest me in it from time to time, giving me some play time with Super Mario Bros. and Ghosts n' Goblins, both of which interested me only for a matter of minutes for both difficulty (especially in the case of Ghosts n' Goblins) and lack of choices. Although I found the idea of controlling characters on the television screen fascinating conceptually, my brain was fairly quickly underwhelmed by the low-tech application that turned out to be possible. I instinctively expected video games to be like videos -- like movies or TV shows -- but involving me. I guess you might say that's an expectation that hasn't changed too much over the years. By contrast, the first time he showed me Metroid late the next year, I played for hours and had to be pulled away from it to get ready for bed. The freedom of movement and the secrets I discovered made a tremendous difference in sparking a persistent sense of curiosity. And that was the beginning for me. Metroid made me think and that made me want to play. Although for lack of modern quality-of-life enhancements that I've been spoiled by and come to expect over the years and decades (proper save feature, in-game map, etc.), I rarely play the NES original anymore, nevertheless because of this foundational experience I'll always have a soft spot for the Metroid franchise.
My Favorite Game: In spite of what I just laid out, the original Metroid is actually no longer my favorite game even from 1986 at this point. No, that title for some time now has gone to the rather amusing, text-based pulp fiction comedy about sexual exploration that is Leather Goddesses of Phobos; another Steve Meretzky game. Meretzky complained that he'd intended A Mind Forever Voyaging (see my mention in the 1985 thread) to be controversial, that he was disappointed that it hadn't been, and that he wanted to make a game that would generate a stir, and thus...this. Opening with a South Park-grade content warning, the game delves into sexual themes with a combination of light heart and female-friendliness that remains uncommon today. Deliberately tacky, it came packaged with s small scratch-and-sniff card which bore seven numbered areas (at certain points in the game, the player would be instructed to scratch a certain number and then whiff the resulting odor), a 3D comic book with 3D glasses, and a double-sided map of the catacombs. Its writing is absurd, hilarious, and just frankly it's a masterpiece and also an excellent parody of gaming conventions of the time. It sold reasonably well by contemporaneous metrics and has become regarded as a cult classic and deservedly so. Definitely my favorite game from 1986 to revisit today.
Last edited by Jaicee - on 16 September 2023